Marc Jacobs aims to make China its biggest foreign market

Fashion chain wants to open five stores a year to overtake sales in Japan and make mainland its biggest foreign market, says chief executive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 4:35pm

The American luxury fashion label Marc Jacobs plans to triple its marketing budget on the mainland and add more stores, in order to make China its biggest foreign market.

Marc Jacobs's chief executive, Bertrand Stalla-Bourdillon, told the South China Morning Post in an exclusive interview that he wanted to copy the success story of Marc Jacobs in Japan.

"Clearly the mainland China market has great potential. After Japan, we want to go for China. Japan is our No 1 foreign country market for now and I think China has the potential to be the next Japan," said Stalla-Bourdillon, who was in Hong Kong for a Marc Jacobs exhibition.

To achieve this goal, Stalla-Bourdillon wants to add five to six stores a year on the mainland over the next few years and triple the marketing and promotion budget.

Marc Jacobs also plans to add three to five new stores over the next five years in Hong Kong, a top shopping destination for mainland travellers, he said.

Currently Marc Jacobs has 25 stores on the mainland and 13 in Hong Kong.

Stalla-Bourdillon said he would initially focus on first-tier cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. One Marc Jacobs store in central Shanghai draws on average more than 2,000 visitors every day.

"For China and Chinese consumers, I think our brand has to be there, so we will invest a lot in our distribution network in the coming years," he said.

Stalla-Bourdillon said he had noticed more and more mainlanders were visiting Marc Jacobs shops in the United States and Europe.

"I think Chinese consumers can learn very fast," he said. "Three or four years ago, they may have been merely chasing logos. Now they seek more than that. The chase now is more about lifestyle, social status and how the brand can fit them. It's not just about a logo any more."

Marc Jacobs is not the only designer label courting the mainland. Others such as Louis Vuitton, owned by the same French parent company that controls Marc Jacobs, and the British firm Burberry are also expanding rapidly on the mainland. The Italian company Prada has even listed in Hong Kong to raise its profile in the region.

While mainland consumers often complain about big gaps between the prices of luxury products sold on the mainland and prices elsewhere, Stalla-Bourdillon blamed high import duties, about 30 per cent for luxury fashion goods, and fast-rising rents on the mainland as the two main reasons for the problem.

"Duties need to be reflected in the retail price, but I try to make sure there aren't any huge gaps in prices," he said. "The first thing to do is to please consumers in China rather than create crazy price tags."